Holdings of the world's largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD), fell for a fifth consecutive month in February, data from the New York-based fund showed, the longest run of outflows since the trust's inception.

The hefty decline seen in January slackened, however. The fund's gold holdings dropped by 520,580 ounces last month to 38.934 million ounces, compared to a 1.722 million ounce fall in January, the second largest outflow in its history. [GOL/SPDR]

Exchange-traded funds back each security issued with physical stocks of a given commodity, creating a product they say is free from counterparty risk.

They have taken a significant amount of bullion off the market since the first fund was launched in 2003, helping support a run-up in gold prices XAU= to record highs last year, and a rise in silver prices XAG= to a 31-year peak.

Holdings of gold-backed exchange-traded products operated in Europe by London's ETF Securities also edged lower, though some smaller ETPs, such as the COMEX Gold Trust (IAU) and the gold fund operated by ETF Securities' U.S. arm (SGOL.P) saw inflows.

The most popular of the ETFs has for quite some time been seeing falling stocks and at the weekend these, at 1,218 tonnes, were at their lowest levels in almost nine months, said precious metals house Heraeus in a weekly report.

Whether this is an appetiser for larger profit-taking to come is not clear, but the question is fairly important as this largest ETF, the SPDR Gold Trust, holds almost seven times more metal than the second largest one.


The largest silver ETF, the iShares Silver Trust (SLV), saw a slight recovery in its holdings last month, meanwhile, with the amount of silver held by the trust increasing by 7.713 million ounces to 342.9 million ounces.

In January its holdings fell 15.919 million ounces, the biggest decline in the fund's history.

The amount of platinum and palladium held by ETPs operated by ETF Securities' U.S. subsidiary also rose in February, by 14,741 ounces and 58,997 ounces respectively.

ETFS Physical Platinum Shares (PPLT.P) now holds a record 452,051 ounces of metal, equivalent to nearly one month's global platinum supply last year. ETFS Physical Palladium Shares (PALL.P) holds 1.212 million ounces of palladium, also a record.